Dan Wheldon was in complete command at the IRL IndyCar Series season opening XM Satellite Radio 300, leading 179 of 200 laps en route to victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the third year in a row.
Starting from pole position, Wheldon stayed out front until his first pit stop, ceding the lead for only six laps to Tony Kanaan and then Kosuke Maatsura. Once the pit sequence finished, the Englishman returned to the head of the field.
Following his second stint, however, it appeared Wheldon would have to settle for a lower finish as a result of a pit road miscue, which dropped him from first to ninth for the restart on lap 109.
"I'm not exactly sure (what happened)," said Wheldon. "I think everyone was pushing hard, because the series is so competitive. We made a slight mistake."
He would not stay behind for long though, as he regained the lead from teammate Scott Dixon 11 Laps later. From there, nobody got close to challenging the 28-year-old as he marched forward to claim his 12th career IndyCar Series victory, taking the checkered flag by a race-record margin of 6.4993 seconds over Dixon.
"It's a great way to open up the season," said the driver of the No. 10 Target Dallara-Honda. "I think with Ganassi Racing this is not a sales pitch, this is the truth - we've worked very hard over the winter to try to perfect what we started last year.
"Hopefully, this bodes well for the rest of the season."
By winning the XM Satellite Radio 300, Wheldon also became the first IndyCar Series driver to win at the same racetrack three years in a row, once for Andretti Green Racing and twice for Target Chip Ganassi Racing.
"It's great to be at Homestead and win three in a row. I'm not sure how we've done it, because I've done it with two different teams," said Wheldon.
Defending Series champion Sam Hornish Jr., Vitor Meira and Tony Kanaan were the only other drivers to finish on the lead lap.
Ed Carpenter, Dario Franchitti, Tomas Scheckter, Helio Castroneves and Buddy Rice rounded out the top 10, all one lap behind.
Further down on the scoring pylon, Marco Andretti, last season's Rookie of the Year, had another disappointing night at Homestead-Miami Speedway. One year after completing just 12 laps before retiring due to a broken halfshaft, Andretti once again was unable to finish the season-opening event because of a mechanical problem.
"I really couldn't tell you what's wrong. It's incredible. It's a shame because the guys have worked so hard closing the gap," said Andretti, who ran a total of 53 laps on Saturday before parking for the night, listed in the 20th and final position.
The third-generation driver wasn't the only Andretti Green Racing driver to have a tough evening.
Danica Patrick, who was disappointed following her 14th place qualifying effort, looked to be setting herself up for a decent points night until lap 155, when she lost control of her No. 7 Motorola Dallara-Honda as she was entering pit road. As a result, she hit the inside wall right before the pit stalls, ending her debut night with the team in 14th place.
"I'm so sorry, it locked up on the brakes," Patrick radioed to her crew after the incident.
Afterwards, she was equally repentant.
"I'm just so disappointed. I don't make mistakes like that, and I can't believe it happened," said Patrick. "I guess the law of averages should tell me that it's possible. When you're pushing 100 percent out there all the time, it is bound to catch up with you. I'm just glad it doesn't happen very often."
Rain was a constant factor on the night, delaying the start of the race by almost an hour due to drying and forcing a yellow flag period from lap 66-77.
The caution period for rain was one of three during the event, a record low at the 1.5-mile speedway, for a total of 32 laps.
The IRL IndyCar Series returns to action in one week's time with the running of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg taking place next Sunday, April 1.